In one of my earlier articles entitled, Taking a Real Look at Plus Size Dressing, I was writing in response to a sister that was going to attend a party and didn’t know what to wear. The last part of her letter really affected me when she said,”…I’m afraid that my size might let me down.” Thinking about that letter again, I said to myself, why would her size let her down? What is so wrong with her size? Why have plus-size women been fed the notion that it is almost criminal to be the size that they are? What, they aren’t even allowed to get dressed up to go to a party and have fun? Only those that are waïf-like, and/or with perky boobs and a small perky butt are allowed to wear pretty dresses? Who made up these stupid laws anyways?
What is more outrageous is how could we actually listen to people like these and allow them to affect our self-esteem? I wonder if that sister realised that there are hundreds of women who have undergone cosmetic surgery to have what that sister has been blessed because they bought into this absurd beauty-size proproganda thinking that the size of their breasts might be directly related to the amount of their self-worth. I can’t think of a reason why I would “voluntarily” undergo surgery that wasn’t necessary to save my life just to enlarge my boobs or to shrink my butt, or to give me a face like “X” celebrity. If I don’t have it, then so what? Am I going to be loved less? Will this affect the course of my future?
In that article, I wrote about how you can enhance your most loved parts of your bodies and downplay the parts that aren’t. I primarily wrote that article for sisters who wanted to acheive an all-over slimming, flattering look and who didn’t yet feel comfortable with their size. But what if you are from the other camp of women who love their size and shape, whatever they are, and that don’t want to be another clone of a tall-skinny-barely-there- hourglass figure as the only figure worth having as dictated by fashion editors and designers? What if you love wearing full skirts because you love the way it accentuates your lovely full bum? Or you love wearing striped tops to broaden your already broad shoulders even though many stylists say it’s a big no-no? Is that so wrong? Why do we all have to look the same? Why do certain women have to be prohibited to wear certain types of clothes and others don’t? Why can’t we wear what makes us feel good regardless if it amplifies, draws attention to, or shouts out to the world that, “Yes, I do have…, and what of it?”
When I was asked to write an article about how to dress for your body type, I had to sigh. There is no way to explain to ever single woman in the world how she can dress according to her body type when there are probably millions of body type combinations. Even as much as those women’s fashion magazines, designers, and stylists want to standardise and compartmentalise our bodies into 5 easy categories as if we were a part of a consensus form, or force us all to transform ourselves into one beauty ideal and shove the rest of us in a closet, they can’t. Have you actually sat down and thought about the categories that have been created for our bodies? It reads like a geometry book. We’re classified as rulers, diamonds, tubulars, inverted triangles, triangles, and rectangles and don’t forget the fruits and other inanimate objects used to describe us such as pears,apples, spoons, columns, bricks, and hourglasses. Standardising beauty or body types is as erroneous as standardized testing in our school systems.
I’ve had my fair share of critiques about everything from my body, my hair, my skin tone, my freckles, and my height almost all of my life and thankfully not from my parents nor my sibilings. Either everyone was secretly envious of me and felt the need to make me feel bad about myself so that they could feel better or that they were on a hunt to rid the world of weird mixed anomalies like myself and my sisters who looked as different as we do. Coming from a multi-ethnic background, as my father is Indian and Uzbek and my mother is African American, Native American, Italian, and French, I got it all: the full bust, the hips, the “sturdy” bone structure, the tall, Amazon-like frame, the wildly curly, curly hair; freckles, tan skin, and extra large feet. And if a fashion stylist got a hold of me, I would be her worst nightmare.
You may not think this is such a bad thing, but when you are little and have to hang out with other Pakistani girls the ones who were brainwashed into believing that being white, having your hair silky straight, and being a slim waif is beautiful was like hell. My father couldn’t understand why my sisters and I didn’t want to hang out with these girls. We would have rather discussed politics or history with the uncles rather than having our self-esteem crushed by some insecure teenagers who were having an identity crisis.
As a result of spending time with girls like these, being in high school, being a teenager, and reading teen fashion magazines, tubes of Fair and Lovely found their way into our drawers, we would endure long torturous sessions of chemically straightening our beautifully curly hair or a.k.a “unruly hair” as described on all shampoo bottles and in beauty columns, somehow I actually contemplated the need to wear green contacts,we struggled with horrible self-image problems and lacked of a sense of belonging amongst some of our peers. And to top it off, we were sometimes ignored because we didn’t resemble anyone that came out of Bollywood or Glamour Magazine or because we didn’t care to look like anyone that came out of Bollywood or Glamour.
These encounters were wreaking havoc on my self-esteem and self-image. I wasn’t happy with myself, nor with what Allah (SWT) had blessed me with even as much as my parents and grandparents reminded us that we were. It was only with time that I learned to turn off that noise and began to rediscover me and to do things that made me appreciate who I am.
I thought about three principles that have helped me through my self-evolution that I think are important to looking good. I’m still in this process as it is a life-long process. A large part about looking good is feeling good about yourself. It doesn’t matter if you are wearing a flattering outfit that is appropriate in every way according to what every fashion editor and stylist on the planet has said if inside you don’t feel that you are worth it.
Keys to Looking Great
True self-confidence speaks volumes. Nothing is more beautiful than a self-assured woman. Cultivating your inner self will also have a positive effect on how you perceive and take care of your outer appearance. Another important step that I have mentioned earlier, is “turning off the noise”, or in other words, getting away from negativity. You want to surround yourself with positive energy and positive company to help cultivate a positive self-image. Your self-worth is definitely not based upon the size of any of your body parts, but who you are as a person.
Dress the Part and Have Fun with Fashion:
Dress according to the type of person that you are. Experiment with different styles, trends, and colors choosing what looks best on you. If you are person with a bubbly personality, it makes no sense to dress like a wallflower because you don’t want to draw attention to the fact that you have a short torso, or an ample bust, or narrow hips. Somehow these things have been perceived as being negative. You are who you are, so put your looks together to display your individual style. When you choose a piece, think of how you feel in it. Do you feel happy? Does it make you look good? Does it reflect the type of person that you are? If you answered yes to all three, then case closed.
Fit, Proportion, and Polished:
Regardless of your size or shape, finding clothes that fit, that are properly proportioned and that leave you looking polished are important. There is no excuse for being lazy and not putting any thought into the way you look whether at home or in public because you say you don’t have a perfect body. That’s just rubbish. If you have trouble finding clothes that fit, you may want to get reacquainted with your local seamstress and take your clothes to have them tailored. You can also design something yourself or select styles from magazines that you like, buy the fabric and have your clothes made. Mass produced clothes found on the High Street are just that, for the masses and not for the individual. Don’t buy something that sort of fits you and really isn’t you just so that you have something to put on your body. Don’t settle. FInd brands that specialize in your size. Spend time trying on clothes. Be sure that whatever style you are going for, in the end you leave looking polished and well put together.
Beauty in Diversity
Allah (SWT) has demonstrated for us time and time again that diversity is beautiful,necessary, and our key to survival:
“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).” Surah Al-Hujurat (49:13)
So why we do work so hard to squash diversity wherever we see it? Why do we look at something different as something strange or something that has to be hidden, disguised, or discarded? Why do people think that the one with the smallest waist or straightest hair or the longest legs will be the winner? Clearly, Allah (SWT) has placed importance on our actions and intentions as what defines us human beings and not how we look. How we look is a beautiful gift from Allah (SWT). If Allah (SWT) had wanted, He could have made us all the same with everything in our world in black, white, and gray.
So if you are a sister with a thin delicate frame and a smaller chest, a sister with narrow shoulders and fuller hips, a sister who has a a full chest with full hips and thighs, a short or tall plus-size sister, or a sister with an athlethic frame, don’t diguise your shape in anyway, enhance it! Let other sisters see the diversity in women’s bodies and how beautiful each one is.
Tabassum Siddiqui is the Head Designer for SHUKR and lives in a small town in Andalucía, Spain with her husband.